What is the gatekeeper on the Mac and how do I turn it off?

What is the gatekeeper on the Mac?

Where in the past you could still install any program as a Mac user, you have to bypass the “gatekeeper” today. This is a monitoring tool from macOS, the purpose of which is not to spy on its user, but to prevent the user from installing unchecked software.

The gatekeeper of macOS takes care not to install any nonsense. But you can bypass it if you want to take the risk.

In terms of technology, this works in such a way that the installation of a program only works smoothly via the Mac App Store. The reason for this is that Apple first checks these Mac apps - before they appear in the App Store - and makes sure that there is no malware installed there. If they have passed this and other tests, they will be released in the App Store.

If you want to download and install software from the Internet, you get a message from the gatekeeper process, which indicates that the software does not come from the App Store and therefore cannot be installed.

Every Mac user probably already knows the corresponding error message:

"Program XY" cannot be opened because it was not downloaded from the App Store. Your security settings only allow the installation of apps from the App Store.

Turn off gatekeeper and bypass it

Basically, it is praiseworthy that Apple tries to provide more security with such functions. Unfortunately, not all programs are represented in the Mac App Store, so every now and then you have to install software past the gatekeeper.

Deactivate gatekeeper

The first way past the gatekeeper is via the macOS settings. Under System Settings> Security there are various options for “Allow apps to be downloaded from” under the “General” tab.

In the system settings> security you will find the possibility to change gatekeepers warning level below.

In the system settings> security you will find the possibility to change gatekeepers warning level below.

The “Mac App Store” option is activated by default. If you now want to deactivate the gatekeeper completely, change this to "No restrictions". The “Mac App Store and Verified Developers” may offer a good middle ground, because then you can download apps from the Internet, but it will still be checked whether the developer who wrote them also has a developer account with Apple.

If you have told Gatekeeper that apps from certified developers are also okay, then you will find a hint if you want to open the software.

If you have told Gatekeeper that apps from certified developers are also okay, then you will find a hint if you want to open the software.

The verified developer account itself is not a guarantee that you will not be able to catch malware, but the likelihood that it will come from a developer account is much lower.

This is how it looks when the gatekeeper completely prohibits access to a program.

This is how it looks when the gatekeeper completely prohibits access to a program.

If the option to disable gatekeeper is not available ...

I didn't have the option to completely deactivate Gatekeeper right away. If this is also the case with you, you can activate the option with the following command. To do this, open the terminal (under Utilities) and enter this:

sudo spctl --master-disable

Now go to System Settings> Security> General and you can also switch off Gatekeeper globally below. However, I would only recommend this if you know what you are doing.

If you want to hide the option again, do this again with the terminal:

sudo spctl --master-enable

Temporarily disable the gatekeeper

If you basically want to keep the gatekeeper active, but as an exception would like to run an app that you downloaded from the Internet, there is an uncomplicated way of doing this. Click the downloaded software with the right mouse button (or hold down the ALT key and press the mouse button) on the program and select "Open" in the menu.

With the right mouse button and the menu item "Open", all programs can be opened - even if the gatekeeper is active.

With the right mouse button and the menu item "Open", all programs can be opened - even if the gatekeeper is active.

The gatekeeper points out the risk again, but after opening it for the first time, there are no further messages.

The gatekeeper points out the risk again, but after opening it for the first time, there are no further messages.

This opens a warning window in which you can confirm that you are aware of the risk and want to start the file anyway. This warning only appears the first time a program is opened.

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4 comments

  1. Conny says:

    Well here too it doesn't work for me that I can switch off the gatekeeper, despite the correct terminal command. Another tip? The display remains unchanged for me in the system settings. Or does it only run in the HG?

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Conny! So for me the display also shows "Allow apps to be downloaded from: App Store". Still, I can right-click to open anything - even if it's not from the App Store or verified developers.

  2. Florian says:

    The terminal commands work in 10.15.7. An "enable" command is not absolutely necessary. If you reset the setting in the system settings to one of the two standard settings, the settings field disappears the next time you start the system settings.

    Is there actually a "list" on the computer in which the programs are listed / saved that were routed around gatekeepers by the workaround?

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Florian! I think it's all recorded in some logs, but I don't see how you could make such a list. In practice, you would probably have to create these yourself by hand. But I'm not a terminal expert either ...

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